DC On Air 3, Meetings and Marching Home

Friday:

Today starts early, as I take a quick listen to more local programming and hit the showers by 7 AM. I’d thought about opting for late check-out, but decide that I may as well just drag my bags to the couple of places I’d be going. It’s not like they are particularly heavy.

I make my way down to the second floor and am checked out by a guy who then claims he doesn’t even work at the hotel. This makes me a little nervous, but I guess all is well as there don’t seem to have been any further ramifications. I’d located my bill inside of my room just prior to departure, and so had only to drop off the room key at the desk anyway.

Then downstairs to await the first of my two meetings with long-time twitter friends. She shows up at 8, and we walk the few steps outside to one in a small chain of French sandwich shops called Au Bon Pain.

I opt for a delicious cinnamon pastry, and a cup of French vanilla coffee. This brings me around as we make small talk, I enjoying the never-fading novelty of hearing one’s voice in person after months of following them exclusively online. Actually, I’d heard her once before via a podcast to which I often listen, but she sounds different to me even than in that recording.

She needs to head back to work, so after about a half hour we walk back to the hotel’s ground floor waiting area. I don’t really call it a lobby, since it doesn’t even have a restroom. The lobby is basically on the second floor. I speak to the woman who works behind the counter about this, and she tells me that the hotel had been opened only 5 years ago. I’m surprised they opted to construct it in this way.

While awaiting my next meeting at sometime around 11, I sit in the chair and listen to that woman have a number of conversations with other guests. I also send and receive messages on my iPhone, while a man who works at some sort of major tech company watches.

“How do you use that,” he asks. “Does it talk to you?”

I pull out the headset and let him hear VoiceOver.

“See, I’ve been trying to convince the folks at my company that we need to make sure our products are usable by, people… people like… can I say?..”

“Yes, you can say blind people,” I tell him. I kind of understand his hesitancy regarding that, given that it can be a challenge to not use words that might inadvertently offend. While I am all for making sure to speak of people in the best way possible, I know at least when it comes to me I usually accept that maybe someone isn’t fully aware of which phrases are appropriate. The intent, the knowledge that we might wish to use mainstream products and can benefit from them, is more important in my opinion.

Eventually he departs to run further errands, and I settle back in to read. My next person arrives at around 11:30, and we go back to the same restaurant as before. Only at this time of course, I choose for a more lunch-type item. The chicken sandwich, with what I think was an unusual kind of cheese, is pretty good and filling. She has a broccoli soup that she says does not taste good at all. I knew it would be interesting to talk to her, because of her love of travel and the kind of work she does in blogging and social media. She is also deaf, but could understand me pretty well. Given that both of our lesser ear is the right, it makes trying to find a workable configuration for conversation a little fun. I do thoroughly enjoy the chatter, though.

She resides in the DC area, and so knows the Metro system well. I thus ask her if she can take me back to Union Station, only a stop away, so that I can go ahead and await the Megabus there. We actually take an escalator up higher to hop into the subway car, which then makes its way underground as it approaches Union Station. This is my first time in the DC subway since 2000, and my first on a subway period since 07. The major urban transit nerd in me will always find this exciting.

Once we arrive, she suggests that I wait downstairs in the Amtrak lounge, because the seats are more comfortable and it has WiFi. But once she shows me where the Megabus will board, I opt to stay on that level and in the other waiting room she finds. I somewhat regret this, as the air smells heavily of pain, but in the end all is well.

I get in there at approximately 1:10, and don’t depart until nearly 3:20 once my bladder begins to rebel. I flag someone down who helps me find a restroom, then choose to sit on a bench outside, even closer to the roaring buses but free of the nose-numbing smell of that room. I inform someone else that I wanted to board the bus that leaves at 4:15, and so suddenly at 3:50 my bag just disappears from under my leg.

“Time to go,” that person then says.

Um, you could have warned me first, pal. I’m thinking someone is stealing my luggage!

Tweet Signpost: So long to our nation’s capital. It’s been real.

I press my nose to the window as my sightless eyes take one last look at the city and the GPS names off streets. We pass by the Verizon Center, Constitution Gardens, and the National Mall before making that bone-jarring bounce back onto the bridge, over the river, and away.

I talk to my seatmate for a few minutes, finding out that she will stay in Durham on Friday night then be picked up by friends for a fun weeklong trip to Wilmington. Then she informs me that she wishes to sleep, so I fall silent and pull out the entertainment boxes.

Not much of note happens for the rest of the trip home. We pull into Durham Station shortly after 9:30, pretty much on time. I am somewhat dismayed to learn that my cabbie hasn’t in fact shown up. She sends someone else after me, mainly so that person could get some money and experience in picking up loyal clients. Only that person decides it’d be nicer to get a big fare, securing a couple of Raleigh trips right off of that bus. So my usual cabbie hears about this, becomes somewhat upset, and makes her way back across town to get me. But by this point, I have gone ahead and hopped into the van that was to take my seatmate to her hotel, with us splitting the fare. I badly need to use the restroom, and the facilities inside of that bus station have been shut for the night. After procuring fast-food, as I know my refrigerator is all but empty, I finally, mercifully arrive home.

And that is the end of a fun trip to DC, during which some light networking especially within NPR may have occurred. One thing that organizing this did show me is that if one wants something enough and knows the right people, one can make it happen. This is a really important lesson for me to keep in mind at all times.

There is some degree of irony perhaps in my journey taking place just before the 50th anniversary of MLK’s March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom occurred. As I’ve pondered this over the last few days, I wonder if and to what extend persons with disabilities played a role in that march. I guess not all that much? I have heard of some powerful civil rights protest by individuals with disabilities, though, and just as with many minority groups in this country, much progress has been made but much remains to be done. We’re here though, our faces will be seen, and we will continue to push for more! Join me?

Advertisement

DC On Air 2: The Tours, NPR and Air and Space

Thursday:

Up early, as is typical when I’m in a hotel. This is primarily because I enjoy browsing the local (if any can even still be called that) radio stations of a city to which I’ve traveled.

Only, this evil, new-aged machine decides pretty quickly that it has it in for me. I somehow get it turned on, but don’t know if I ever turn it back off. And, I can only really slip between four stations, likely all presets.

Tweet Signpost: I miss simple to operate clock radios. Hope I’ve not inadvertently set an alarm. Lol

Relenting on that frivolity, I shuck the thick, warm covers and stumble towards the shower. I don’t know what has run amok, but I somehow end up with water all over the bathroom floor! *sigh* I sure hope the rest of this day will not follow suit.

Speaking of, I slide into mine, make sure I have my room key in the pocket only after the door has slammed shut, (I should win an award for highest IQ), and head for the elevator.

Coffee, the elixir of life, starts streaming through my veins, and finally things begin to make some sense. I sit among a raucous crowd in the hotel’s second floor café and also punish a sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit. I decide, smartly as it turns out, to deposit the complementary bottle of orange juice into my UNC tote bag as I make for the door.

The cab ride is short and sweet. I kind of wish I’d braved the Metro system a little more though, as I surely could’ve saved some of that dough. I was concerned with being there on time however, because I’d made appointments for help from no doubt busy people.

Tweet Signpost: I have arrived at @NPR . Just waiting for someone to find me. Let the fun begin!

This is at 10:23, and the individual who would be taking me inside shows up promptly at 10:30. I am surprised when it turns out to be the person with whom I had been corresponding in order to put the tour details into place. She describes the types of things I would encounter, then takes me to the gift shop where I acquire a nice NPR travel mug and two CDs of popular NPR shows. I then ask her to take a picture of me with my iPhone.

Tweet Signpost: Me inside of the @NPR lobby in front of a sign panel (Photo)

This to me is one of the great things about having mainstream technology, something I can just hand to a sighted person and they’ll know what to do with. Photos don’t much matter to us blind folk, of course, but I know they can bring things to life for any pairs of eyes that look.

I wish I, with my faulty memory, could keep the happenings of the tour in order. If you would like to take it yourself and/or read a quick description of what one is supposed to see, check this entry. I should note that I am guided by a kind volunteer who has retired from her prior work and enjoys helping others as they go through the tour.

The building is seven floors, but we only get to see five. She says the top two don’t much contain anything of interest anyway. The voice that announces floors and direction in the elevator is that of none other than the legendary Susan Stamberg.

I enjoy sitting in the same chairs as the reporters do when in planning sessions for major shows like Morning Edition and All Things Considered. They show how stories are edited, noting that there is usually a fixed time that must be filled to the second, meaning that sometimes extended musical pieces will be used to make it all fit. I guess I feel a little better when listening now, because I often cringe involuntarily when I fear that a guest might be going on too long. I especially do this when the host says “Uh-huh?” in a way that says “Alright wrap up, please.” But, I’m just like that.

One of my favorite things to discover is to what extent NPR is going to ensure that its content is accessible. I think the tour guide says there will be an individual who can do live captioning with only a 3-second delay, for those who are hard of hearing. They also have a Braille display that is keeping time with the on-screen stories.

“Let him come up and feel this,” the guide says to the person with whom I am walking. “Can you read that?” he asks as I lightly touch the display.

“The…, suit,… It’s going too fast!” I reply. This draws laughter from the other members of our party.

And I think we’re among the lucky ones who actually do encounter an NPR host, as Weekend Edition Saturday’s Scott Simon pops out in a corridor just up ahead of us. Maybe some get to shake his hand, but I am too far back to do so. Still, it is interesting to hear him talk in person.

This largely wraps up what was for me a pretty exciting walk-through. If you’ve been following me for a long time, you know I’ve wanted to do this just as long as I’ve been blogging. My thanks to Erin McIntyre, volunteer Barbara, and the good folks of NPR Generation Listen for working with me to make that happen.

Tweet Signpost: Now the tour is over, and I’m just sitting in the lobby hoping a reporter walks by. Lol, we actually did run into @NPRScottSimon .

I sit here for a while longer drinking in the surroundings, until I am predictably approached by a security guard.

“No you aren’t in any trouble,” she says: “I just wanted to make sure you weren’t waiting for transportation or something.”

I accompany her into the café, where I buy a cheeseburger and am furnished with a cup of water. I know immediately that I won’t need a big dinner at night, as I’m still pretty full from the breakfast sandwich I’d had back at the hotel. They eat in DC!

The guard calls my next taxi, and once I arrive at my destination my iPhone decides it’d be a good idea to slip from my pocket. Imagine my panic when I touched that spot and felt nothing but flat fabric.

“Hey,” I asked no one: “y’all still see that cab?”

Fortunately for me, the driver had noticed it as he pulled off, and was already proffering the device without which I would’ve been very unhappy.

That crisis averted, I set off to do another thing I’d wanted for a while: visit Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum. I kind of waited till the last minute to arrange this tour, having called on the Friday prior when they’d actually prefer that one do so two weeks in advance. Even so, a guide is found for me.

His name is Larry, and he notes that he has read for the organization now known as Learning Ally but then called Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic. Not surprisingly, his main interest is in books about planets and intraplanetary (ok, I made that up but so?) aviation. I believe he also served in one of the military branches, though I cannot remember if he tells me which.

We make our way through the huge crowds of people gawking at giant, old aircraft mounted over our heads. He pulls out a little cart on which he places model versions of some of these machines for me to feel.

I get to check out the Wright Flyer, which I am surprised to discover is kind of rectangular with its length going sideways, if that makes any sense. It has a kind of mesh at the front, and propellers. I wonder how they got that thing off of the ground.

I also see miniature versions of the first jet aircraft, which look more sleek and aerodynamic. He informs me that people initially thought that two wings were necessary in order to achieve even lift, but in actuality this depends on the level of force the aircraft’s fuselage is able to endure. Once this was discovered, some chose to build only single-wing aircraft.

Next, we take a quick trip to Space exploration. He shows me a model of Apollo 11, with its spindly lunar lander, conical mother ship part whose official name escapes me at the moment, and the bottle-shaped service module that contains all of the life-giving supplies such as oxygen and water. I’ve heard these parts described, but still it is fascinating to get a feel of what they actually look like.

He is fascinated by how much I know about air and Space travel. Well what can I say: I’ve just been hooked from a young age.

Tweet Signpost: Back at the hotel, man what a day! Pondering what to do tonight. Sleep will wait till I’m home.

And not a whole lot happens after this point. As I always must do when traveling, I take about an hour and a half in my room to de-compress and allow my ears and hearing to recover. If I don’t do this, I will develop a headache from all of the strain, becoming incredibly stressed out eventually. So, I sit on the bed with my phone in hand, firing off tweet replies to everyone who has commented over the course of the day and lining up plans for the next day’s meetings with online friends.

Tweet Signpost: Milkshake Outdoors, and My Day in a Nutshell (Audio)

Tweet Signpost: Oh, and Another for Ambience, Cuz I talked Too Much Audio

One of my favorite things to do when in a different location is to capture some of the sounds. These are a blind man’s photos, after all. In the first piece of audio, you’ll note how crazily windy it is out at that table where I sit, sucking on a delicious sweet mango milkshake from an Indian restaurant right near the hotel. My original plan was to sit outside for a bit, then head in and see if I could find some ice cream. But I hadn’t realized that I’d chosen a restaurant’s table until I am approached by a server who asks if I want anything. It ends up being quite a nice experience.

After a quick conversation with a friend in Chapel Hill once I return to my room, tiredness rolls in like a tide. I drift off as my phone and the NPR app streams All Things Considered, feeling happy and full of anticipation of what is to come.

More tomorrow.

DC On Air 1: The Going

Wednesday:

A light rain falls as I disembark from the Triangle Transit 700 which, ironically, arrives at the Durham Station transportation center on time. This is the first time all week, as on both Monday and Tuesday the bus got there so late that I had been unable to make my connection to the DATA Route 6 bus that takes me home. Today, I don’t even need it.

I kind of hang out at that immediate location from 4 PM until almost 5, knowing there are still a couple of hours to kill. Then the bladder places its call to the brain, and so I stand and make my way toward the Greyhound station to meet that need.

People are milling around, babies crying, teens may as well be. Meanwhile, I put my hearing aids into the beautiful t-coil setting that largely isolates all sound and settle in with my audio books to complete the wait.

I don’t think I’ve talked about it yet, but I’m reading The Twelve by Justin Cronan. In order to really read this one though, you have to have read The Passage first as it’s a sequel. Both novels, of epic length, start out in modern times and quickly advance to a somewhat post-apocalyptic future where “virals,” previously human figures that have been taken over by an awful virus, attack and destroy the fabric of civilization. These resulted from an experiment on prisoners that went very wrong. It’s good stuff, if quite disturbing.

So once 5:45 rolls around, I know it is time to start finding my way out to where the Megabus departs. I meet a nice individual who says he knows where I should go, and walk with him out to the back as we chat. The rain is still coming down, but sun also shines, which actually feels pretty good other than the fact that my clothes are getting wet.

I’d tried to memorize the confirmation number for my reservation, but apparently get it wrong. iPhone to the rescue, as I just pull up the email so the driver can have a look. Ah, I love no longer having to find a way to print this stuff out. Then, off we go.

Tweet Signpost:

And with that, my trip to DC is underway. Sitting upstairs, which is cool. Helpful pax showed me electrical outlet

I think this may be only the second time I’ve ever ridden on a double-decker bus. The ride is quite comfortable, and I’m surprised that I can feel a little less engine rumble up here. People do turn on their music and play it aloud, which I’m sure the rules stipulate should not be done. I guess the driver doesn’t particularly care, though.

Tweet Signpost:

And the first county on the other side of the NC/VA line is Mecklenburg. Copy cats! Also a town called Norlina right at border

Yep, one of the things I especially enjoy about this trip is really taking Ariadne GPS, an iPhone app that is customized for VoiceOver, for a spin. I have my destination hotel saved to its favorites, and so I watch the milage count down as we get closer and closer. It makes me feel like I’m headed to another planet.

We take on passengers in Richmond, stopping for only about 15 minutes. At this station, a woman boards who manages to hold up a very loud cell phone conversation for the duration of the trip. She speaks in what sounds like a mix of English and perhaps some African language, alternately stomping eratically and laughing hysterically. I don’t have a problem with this per se, but I’m willing to bet that some passengers do.

Tweet Signpost:

Yikes! Right into the heart of some heavy rain.

And right at that moment, I become glad I hadn’t opted to take Amtrak. Of course if I had, I would’ve had to leave earlier anyway, so that likely is a moot point. But I remember what happened to me as I attempted to reach Charlotte and my cousin’s wedding through a dounpour.

I watch as we bounce onto a bridge and the GPS reports “Potomac River”. I think that’s the Woodrow Wilson Bridge? It takes us from Arlington into DC, depositing us, I think, on SW 14th Street. I also note the towns of Lorton, Springfield, and Alexandria as we close in on the city.

At Union Station, I am assisted to the level to grab a taxi by a young woman who says she’s from Chapel Hill and about to complete her MSW at Howard. Impressive, I say.

Tweet Signpost:

Here In DC (Audio)

Hunger has nearly crippled me by this point, so as I state in that audio post, I call up a place called New York Pizza. I listen to the belly rumblings and order a 12-inch cheeseburger sub, when I would definitely have been fine with only 8 inches. I end up only able to consume half of it, depositing the rest into the can untouched. This is why I wish all hotel rooms had refrigeration.

I think I will stop here and continue with Thursday’s happenings tomorrow.

Sang With the Choir!

As Fred Hammond’s Jesus Be A Fence All Around Me blares out of my speakers, piped in via the iPhone, I find myself reflecting on the days of singing on various church choirs. It still makes me somewhat sad that my ability to harmonize well was one of the first things to go as my hearing has continued to deteriorate, and especially since I had become so good at it. I haven’t therefore sang on a choir since probably 2001? Doing so gave me some of the most interesting experiences I’ve ever had, though.
It started with the children’s choir at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. I can’t really remember if we were required to join by the parentals or if we just opted into it, but certainly all of my sisters and I were a part of the choir at that time. Rehearsals were on Saturday morning, and one could get quite exhausted working and re-working the same song until we had it.
One of the most intense songs I remember singing in those early days was a take on the Hallelujah course.
“O Lord, o Lord, how majestic is thy name in all the earth,
O Lord, o Lord, how majestic is thy name in all the earth”
Man, that piece was intense! Mostly because we had to get incredibly loud to be heard above the pounding musicians and general roar of the congregation as they got into it and stood to bounce in the aisles. By the time we got to the final, extended, “O Lord, my God,” I’d be practically on my knees and voiceless. But it was so exhilarating, too, because of the reaction that tune inspired.
We continued singing with the church even as we aged, doing so first at different locations in Charlotte, and then the pinnacle of at least my experience with that choir, our 1992 trip to New Rochelle New York to perform for one of that area’s churches.
Our hotel was actually in White Plains, and the first thing I remember about arrival there was their constant assurance that White Plains was pretty much just like Charlotte. That may be, but they sure didn’t have no grits! When I asked them for some, they acted as if I were speaking another language.
We of course also went to, and promptly got lost in, Manhattan for at least a couple of hours. My cousin and I, along with a few others, had decided we were zonked and had had enough by the time they finally located the ferry that would take people to the statue of liberty. An 81-year-old choir member who had known times of much more aggressive walking put us youngins to shame, though, and went on the tour with the rest.
Somehow, a New Yorker managed to commandeer a city bus that took us back close enough to our White Plains hotel to get a taxi, where a driver tried to take us around the way because “I need more money to tickle my hands!” Uh-uh, buddy.
On that epic trip, we also went to see the Broadway play Jelly’s Last Jam, and quite a few of us had our picture taken with Gregory Hines in front of the theater in which that play took place. It was great.
That was probably the most extravagant trip I’d gotten to take with that or any choir. Once my folks relocated, at least most of us, from Charlotte in 1994, I never did join the choir in our new church home of First Baptist Missionary in Southern Pines, North Carolina. In 1996, after some trickery by my resource teacher at Pinecrest High School that luered me into their auditions, I did get to experience a different kind of choral singing. Unlike our church choirs, this required me to learn to blend in and use what to me sounded more like an operatic tone. I’m certainly not saying that either way is better than the other, just that they’re different kinds of singing. I think it’s good for a musician to be exposed to such variation anyway, and would say that my chorus instructor at Pinecrest did more to bring out my voice than anyone I’d ever known.
People submitted to sing the major solo in our final concert my senior year, but being the shy, confidence-lacking person I was, I didn’t bother putting my name in that hat. Still, he gave me the biggest solo and worked with me every other day for 30-45 minutes to ensure that I learned it.
Singing in the harsh spotlight that I could actually feel shine down on me, I’d rarely felt the flood of happiness that came from achieving that goal. And that’s probably the main thing I gain from any sort of musical experience, a sense of pleasure and fulfillment equaled by nothing else.
Onto the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where I participated on both types of choir at the same time. Now that’s some real fun.
The Unlimited Praise gospel choir traveled to Greensboro, Salisbury, and some points around Charlotte to sing at churches and such. Being a part of that choir gave me a community to belong to at a time when I really needed it.
And my cousin and I found out how valued our contributions to it were when we left due to a rapidly intensifying semester. They decided they wanted us to come with them for support at a competition in Rocky Mount, a town that makes one feel he is traveling back in time. We took an insane day trip that began in Charlotte at 4:29 AM and returned at 3 AM the following day. Hearing six different groups, including one from Long Island that stole the show, was great; but my favorite thing was the food. But isn’t that always the case?
In the University Chorale we never took long-range trips, because some knuckleheads were uncooperative the year before I got there. This left the instructor more inclined to just stay local.
We did, however, get to perform inside of a place called Oasis Temple. I’m not sure if that place has a religious background, but it’s very nice. I think we may have sang at a couple of other local churches as well.
I should probably find a church here in Durham, that is if I really want to experience that kind of connection. And if I do, I might still try and see if I can’t belt out a tune. I might have some issues with flatness or whatever, but hey I know some folk on choirs who are, um, tone deaf? But as long as they enjoy it, it’s all good! We shall see if any of that happens again for me in the near future. In any event, it was fun to reflect on. And as I close, the phone is playing Dottie Peoples, He’s an On-Time God, another foot stomper!

The Course, and Summer Travel After All?

Man, what! A! day! A very good, and full one, but one on which I find myself quite exhausted.
First, I’m wondering if I should ask to be downgraded to a four-day workweek for the duration of this HTML class I’m taking. I have no idea how I’ll make it through Friday otherwise, as by the time class ends it’s very definitely my bedtime. I’ve already taken tomorrow, because I knew I’d need the adjustment time.
Speaking of the class, I think it’s going to be great. There are a mix of creative, intelligent, humorous people therein. This is the first such course that I’ve taken strictly online, and so for that it’ll be a new experience anyway.
Today, we mostly covered what would be required to complete the course. The most interesting aspect is that we must create a website based on a topic of our choosing. We all know how hard I struggle with making decisions on such things, well truthfully how hard I struggle with making decisions period. Ha, ha. So do you have ideas about what I should try to base my site on? Music? Sports? Disability issues? I don’t know, but I guess I’ll come up with something.
I think I get a pass on a solidly written post tonight, huh? I’m at least putting out something!
The final good news of the day is, it seems anyway, that I’m going to get to tour the NPR headquarters after all. We’re just working out the time that I’d go, and they’ve said they’ll be willing to accommodate me through the building with a guide.
I hope to visit Washington on the 22nd, well in all likelihood arriving on the 21st and crashing so I’ll awake in the morning refreshed and ready to go. That’s assuming any sleep can be had, as I’ll doubtless be as excited as a kid on Christmas.
I’ve been an NPR junkie since late in 2001, and seriously contemplated some way of working as part of that network for the last few years or so.
So tomorrow I’ll pour over travel websites to see if I can find a hotel close to Union Station, both because that’s where Megabus will arrive and because it’d also put me close enough to NPR to easily take a taxi if that’s what I end up doing. Wish me well. I think that would indeed be my summer’s last hurrah.
Ah, this season is winding up far too quickly, but it’s been a pretty good one overall. So tell me to stop complaining and look at all of the things that have gone right!
Back with something more coherent tomorrow, once my brain is functioning properly. I feel quite pleased, though.

Book Review: Cruising Attitude, by Heather Poole

Right on the heels of my Audio Mo challenge success, well so-so that is, I’ve learned through a blogger I met on Twitter via AudioMo of another challenge that might well be more up my alley. This one, hash tagged #31WriteNow, dares its participants to write a blog post every day for the month of August. I have absolutely no idea if I can live up to that kind of commitment these days, and especially given that I’m starting class and have some kind of job, no matter how tenuous the latter may be at the moment. But, I can always use the stimulation of the attempt.
I’ve cashed it in on this week regarding the day job, opting to take tomorrow off and work on some more productive things. We did nearly nothing all of this week, but have some hope that things will begin to revive next Monday. We’re just having to pound through the summer doldrums.
My section partner didn’t show up today either, meaning I had no one to talk to. So I decided to start Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama, and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 Feet, by Heather Poole.
A well-known flight attendant via Twitter and other social media forums, I’ve followed Poole for almost 4 years now. But upon already reading about a quarter of this book in one sitting, I can say that I hadn’t known as much as I thought about what her job really entailed.
Her tales begin with a couple of fairly recent stories about passengers experiencing medical issues onboard and the measures taken to assist them. Some were humorous, and others were sad. With these, Poole immediately establishes in the reader some of the wild emotional swings experienced by one who engages in this line of work.
In the following chapters, she takes us through her journey into being a flight attendant, noting that this was initially meant to be a short job while she awaited her bigger career as, well something. Just as so many of us young folk struggle with, Poole was having a hard time figuring out just what she’d wanna do.
After an adventure-filled stint with a small, very low budget carrier, she managed to make her jump to the big dogs of the sky. This involved a move to New York City that required quick adjustment to a life that she’d not anticipated and while building a friendship with a southerner who was also adjusting to the flight attendant role.
I obviously have a ways to go. But I’m sure that if her descriptions of intense training at a flight attendant academy, preparation for and survival of life in a chaotic Queens-area crashpad, and encounters with intimidating co-workers as she got started are any indication, her remaining stories will be a lot of fun.
I particularly enjoy Poole’s writing style. It gives the impression that one is sitting across the table and asking questions about how she got to this point. It’s all very conversational. As one who can’t get enough of travel stories, see my enjoyment of the Betty In the Sky with A Suitcase podcast, I unquestionably love this book. This book also brings home what I often hear attendants say: their job is about more than just serving drinks and pretzles. It’s about keeping us safe when we choose to be suspended far above the ground in a metal tube, and any attendant worth his or her salt really takes that seriously. If you check it out, you’ll see what I mean.

Summer Travels?

Ah, it’s that time of year again. High time to start planning my
summer trip. This year, I might take two of them.
Well first things first, I’m kind of nervous about scheduling the
excursions. I work at a place that is being effected by the
government’s sequestration policies, and so we’re being forced to cut
back significantly. I suppose my greatest fear is being furloughed for
a time, and thus having to have enough money to survive until I’m
picked up again. I know this isn’t an unrealistic possibility. Darn
adult decisions and having to hold back. Of course, if I’m to go
anywhere for a reasonable price, I can’t hold back for much longer. I
guess we shall see. Perhaps I should go and play the lottery.
The first trip I might take would be to Washington DC. Here, I could
do a number of things to further my career path, and have a little fun
while I’m at it.
The main thing I might get to do is to actually visit the headquarters
of the National Industries
for the Blind
in Alexandria. I’m hoping to talk to some higher-ups
about possible positions and what I’d need to do in order to get
there. This would be in conjunction with my starting the Contract
Management Support Training course, which I hope to do pretty soon
here. I just have to line up all of my references and get everything
submitted. This course would teach me some basic concepts in helping
NIB-affiliated agencies or other government entities in acquisition of
contracts and negotiating the best deals possible for those who would
benefit from them. It’s a potentially wide-ranging experiential gain
that could open many doors for me.
The next thing I’m looking into doing is visiting NPR headquarters, I guess
it’d be the new one into which they’ve just moved. I’ve been told by
insiders that it is possible for regular folks to do this, but I
haven’t yet made heads or tails of exactly how. I’ve been an NPR
junkie since late 2001, when my Sociology professor had us listen to
an excellent series on black codes and the Jim Crow South. In the age
of social media, I’ve actually enjoyed chatting and interacting with
many of their reporters and producers online. I “know” them so well
that I can often tell who’s covering a story just by that story’s
title.
I’m not entirely ruling out some kind of career with that network, and
so I look at the job listings, taking note of the qualifications for
positions that are currently over my head so that I can get an idea of
where and how I might start. I hope that my experience as a volunteer
with a nonprofit, the Norrie Disease Association as well as some of the
other things I’m doing would come in handy should I attempt to make
that leap.
The final thing I want to do would be for fun. I want to visit the Smithsonian National
Air and Space Museum
. I’ve heard they have some blind-friendly
exhibits, or at least some way for me to get a good sense of what is
on display. This would feed my love for all things aviation and
space-related. Hey, I’m still planning to be the first blind man on
the moon!
Later, perhaps in late July or early August, I should get paid
vacation from my employer. Then, I’m thinking of heading to beautiful
Northern California to meet up with some friends I have out there.
I’ve hoped to check out that part of the country for a long time too.
I don’t know what the itinerary would look, other than I’d probably be
there for a week, but I know those folks would show me a good time.
Whatever the case, I sure hope I get to go somewhere. It’s not in my
nature to stay grounded for too long. Have you made any summer travel
plans yet?

Book Review: The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin

Definitely still working out the kinks with this blog, and there are many! I feel like I have to know a lot more about how websites work to really take advantage of this thing, but I still hope to be fully operational soon. I just gave up and deleted all of my blogger entries, because the span really went haywire.

Anyway, what better way to open a in which I hope to focus on my travels than by reviewing a travel book of sorts. Well its more like historical fiction, but its based on one of the most prominent figures in aviation.

Actually as the title suggests, a lot of the story is told from his wife’s perspective. And that would be the wife of Charles Lindbergh, of course.

Benjamin makes clear from the beginning that the woman she creates to have married Mr. lindbergh is fictional. I suppose this is done to give her more liberty in dramatizing the narrative. The events that unfold however make it pretty clear that the story is very much reality based.

It opens with the eventual wife kind of playing second fiddle to her sister, with the family assuming that the sister would marry him because of her good looks and charm. This was in 1927, shortly after Lindbergh completed his Atlantic crossing to Paris.

For reasons only he really knows, Lindbergh asks Anne, the wife’s name in this novel, to fly up with him not once but twice. I enjoy the flight parts most, although I get a sense that the author chooses not to dive into a deep explanation of how planes work and what was being looked at when things had to be fixed. This is ok, but it makes those parts of the book fall a little flat in my opinion.

I haven’t finished it yet, but it seems to me that Benjamin wanted to demonstrate the perils us hero worship, and that at the end of the day we’re all still human. I really like this message.

The story is told entirely from Anne’s first person perspective, with strange flash forwards to 1974, when Lindbergh is apparently dying. The first time this happened, I’d thought I had accidentally skipped ahead a bunch of pages.

I’m not as into the romantic angle, but I can recommend this because it has plenty of suspense too. At the very least, it makes a fun way to start a workday.